Robbie Short

As students in the inaugural classes of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges navigate freshly painted halls and manicured courtyards, over 40 graduate affiliates are settling into the new communities in the North — the largest cohorts of any residential college.

Each new college has around 25 graduate affiliates, five of whom are resident affiliates, living in each Prospect Street facility along with undergraduates. The graduate and professional students plan community events and serve as mentors for Yale College students.

Fresh off completing their own undergraduate degrees, graduate affiliates can offer students unique insights into choosing a major or applying to graduate school, Head of Benjamin Franklin College Charles Bailyn said. But there is not a strong sense of community among graduate affiliates, Bailyn added, something he hopes to change by expanding the program’s scope.

“[Graduate students are] siloed inside their program inside their department, and they don’t have as much horizontal interaction with the other graduate and professional students,” Bailyn said. “We’re trying to do a kind of community building — both the kind that is traditional with the graduate and professional affiliates and a thing that perhaps goes beyond what has been traditional.”

Benjamin Franklin’s five resident affiliates gather together for meals every other week to plan programming and discuss ways to foster community among their peers. But the plan to increase programming for graduate affiliates is still in its early stages, Bailyn said. At a recent gathering at the head of college house, he asked the graduate and professional students to brainstorm ideas to strengthen the sense of community among affiliates.

Wilhemina Koomson GRD ’21, a former graduate affiliate of Trumbull College who moved up Prospect Street to Benjamin Franklin, said that the affiliates in the college plan to take trips and have outdoor bonding activities to get to know one another.

“Graduate students often feel like they’re kind of wandering around the outskirts of campus,” said Brian Earp ’10 GRD ’22, a resident affiliate in Benjamin Franklin and philosophy and psychology graduate student. “They have their specific departments that they can go to, but they don’t feel like they have a distinct community.”

While most graduate affiliates reside off campus, resident affiliates are able to immerse themselves in college life by living in undergraduate entryways and eating their meals in the dining halls. For Koomson, living in Benjamin Franklin furnishes a sense of home in the college and a chance to get to know undergraduates in an intimate setting.

“As an undergrad, that’s something I felt, that I was drowning or somehow not making the right decision,” said Koomson, who is also a first-year advisor. “Just being able to be that person for the students I was advising — it really kind of made me feel like, ‘wow this is my contribution.’”

Earp recently solicited short biographies from all the Benjamin Franklin affiliates for a page on the college website where undergraduates will be able to identify potential mentors. According to Koomson, affiliates are planning a presentation for undergraduates to learn about options for graduate school and an event for sophomores to learn about choosing a major.

Head of Pauli Murray College Tina Lu, said she hopes the college’s five residential affiliates — four of whom graduated from Yale College — will help compensate for the current shortage of seniors, who are typically responsible for managing the buttery and organizing intramural events.

Head graduate affiliate for Pauli Murray, Jason Douglas ’13 GRD ’22, hopes to use his study-abroad experiences during his undergraduate years to help younger students navigate Yale’s study-abroad and language-study resources.

In the Pauli Murray graduate affiliate cohort, one affiliate coordinates community service activities, while another plans talks with local political and business leaders from New Haven. And a third affiliate is working with local shop owners to collect tools and create a sustainable bike shop for the college, Lu said.

Since they arrived on campus in the fall, Pauli Murray College affiliates have organized a number of programs for undergraduates, including an ice cream social, a Bollywood dancing workshop and a discussion of Supreme Court cases with law students. Most recently, international affiliates hosted a cooking class to introduce students to the staple dishes of their cultures, Douglas said.

“The communities created within a residential college are one of the most unique aspects of getting an education at Yale,” Douglas said. “[Affiliates] get plugged into Yale as a whole rather than the [graduate] school they’re in or the program that they’re in.”

There are 6,859 graduate and professional students enrolled at Yale.

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu